On view now at the Brooklyn Museum is the special exhibition "Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern", a rather intimate look at the woman behind the celebrity. Tracing O'Keeffe's history from her childhood on a Wisconsin farm, through her early teaching years in Virginia and Texas and her beginning success as an artist to her ultimate renown as the doyenne of Modernism, the curators present an interesting perspective on who, exactly, was Georgia O'Keeffe.
By positioning O'Keeffe as an advocate of the Arts and Crafts philosophy of beauty being the sum of harmonious and visually pleasing pieces, the exhibition shows her to be a master of creating her own, unique personal and professional aura. Fascinated with the power of clothing since her youth, O'Keeffe used her wardrobe not only as an expression of style but to establish herself as an independent woman and as an artist. Examples of fashion illustration done when she was still in her teens show an accomplished drafts person and someone who already knew how to profit from her artistic talents.
"Woman with Blue Hat", c.1916-17
Watercolor and gouache
The first galleries are centered around groups of clothing probably made and certainly worn by O'Keeffe as a young woman in the 1920s. These cream-colored tunic-style dresses are stunningly simple but feature exquisite details such as pin tucks and bows.
"Hills - Lavender, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico II", 1935
Especially interesting was the way that her clothing and paintings were intertwined. Like the scalloped edge on this "Varjo" dress by Marimekko, circa 1963...
"Ram's Head, White Hollyhock-Hills", 1935
With sheet metal frame by George Ot
Or the deep "V" of this "Chute" dress by Emilio Pucci, circa 1954...
Georgia O'Keeffe led a long and full life and carefully preserved her image right up until the end. When she died in 1986, O'Keeffe still owned nearly a dozen bespoke black suits made for her by tailors in New York and Hong Kong and worn when traveling to cities or entertaining guests in New Mexico. This highly curated wardrobe was of great importance in the identity Georgia O'Keeffe showed the world and helped solidify her iconic status among American artists which endures to this day.